The Free Motion Quilting Project: How to Quilt a Log Cabin Quilt - Part 1

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Quilt a Log Cabin Quilt - Part 1

Okay! Let's get started with our very first tutorial on USING these free motion designs!

This beautiful quilt was sent in my Meredith K:

When I saw it I was instantly reminded of the 2 log cabin quilts I've made: the Rainbow Quilt and Eye of the Forest.

I was also reminded by how hard it was to decide on the quilting pattern for both quilts!

Log cabin quilts are pretty tricky because the design is typically very bold and there are so many piecing lines.

Should you follow the piecing lines or ignore them? Should you enhance the bold color differences with more contrast or less?

So how the heck do you quilt it???

Remember stitching in the ditch is NOT allowed!

Well, I played with it in paint for awhile and came up with 5 different quilting designs which I will share in subsequent posts.

Here's the first I came up with:

Note: I draw this in contrasting lines so you can see it, but you don't necessarily have to quilt it with contrasting thread.

This design is really basic and I feel that most beginners should be able to quilt it.

You will definitely want to mark your quilt using clear rotary ruler and either a Water Soluble Pen or a Soapstone Marker if your fabrics are dark.

While the marking may take awhile, this design is very forgiving. Don't get too nit-picky with having exactly the right number and spacing of rays. Just make sure your lines are drawn straight and then quilt the sucker!

Yes, it's all straight lines, but don't chicken out and use your walking foot. It's far easier to quilt straight lines with your free motion foot once you get used to it.

The thing I like about this design is that it definitely takes advantage of the piecing, but it also adds a new dimension of texture over it as well.

As far as a bed quilt goes, this quilting design is perfect.

There will still be lots of space between the lines of stitching so the quilt will hold together nicely without being "overquilted" or "hyperquilted" where the quilt feels more like cardboard than a cozy quilt!

As far as where this would fair in a quilt show, it's hard to say.

Just quilting the straight lines is probably not going to win you any ribbons, but the judges will look favorably on you stitching different designs in different areas of your quilt and not just meandering over the whole surface.

A cool variation of this design that would definitely put you in the running for a Best Machine Quilting award would be to first stitch the lines, then go back and fill the space between every other ray with dense filler stitching.

Which fillers would I suggest?

The rays are what I would call uncomplicated quilting spaces so you can quilt just about any of the designs we've done so far in them.

I personally think Henna Fooffy or Spiral Chain would look excellent starting small and then expanding out of the rays.

If you've got a log cabin quilt hanging around in your closet, pull it out and give this one a try!

Or you can wait and check out the next variation of this design I come up with. Meredith's quilt is so awesome, there's going to definitely be a lot of different ways to quilt it!

Let's go Quilt!

Leah Day


  1. Wow, what a great idea putting your quilt photo in Paint and trying different designs out...gotta try that!

  2. very nice... I just happen to have a log cabin sampler that needs to be quilted!

  3. Excellent idea to take some regular time off, Leah. I was wondering how you were able to do all this to consistently--like Wonder Woman! I'm glad to see that you are taking care of yourself. :-)

    And even better idea to post ideas on how to USE the designs. Yours is my favorite blog at the moment. I can't wait to see what you come up with next! That certainly doesn't mean you'll be letting us in blogland down if you take a weekend off.

  4. Beautiful!
    Thank you for sharing this. I don't think I would have thought of quilting like this. I've pretty much stuck with "in the ditch", but I'm looking forward to learning from you!

  5. Excellent! I just finished machine quilting a disappearing 9 patch scrappy quilt in all straight lines following the seams, and using my walking foot. I don't have a free motion foot but would love to get one. My Singer is about 26 years old so I think I'll have to do some searching. Also I think the gloves and the teflon mat would be very helpful too.

    Thanks for the great ideas!


  6. Great idea, Leah! Another way to mark a quilt like this is with a ruler and a Hera marker; I love that there's nothing to erase once the stitching is done.

  7. I have only recently found your blog and I am thoroughly enjoying reading it. You are really good for putting all this effort into this and I know this is well appreciated, even though sometimes folk forget to say just how much! Dont try to be superwoman!


  8. WOW you are so so right Leah - we blast on and get all our blocks done, humm and ha over sashing, borders etc (if it's not a complete pattern) then when it comes to the usually dreaded final finishing stage of quilting most of us freeze - I'm one - I've got this delicious hand pieced Round Robin quilt, it's been sandwiched and basted for about 18 months but can I get to the next stage and start machine quilting. No, not quite yet. As it's a RR top there are no regular block formats to follow and I just can't make up my mind on how to do it justice, but I'll keep watching and maybe with your inspirition get some idea and courage to start (it's now a year too late engagement present).

  9. Hi Leah, this is your Shelby neighbor, I just love thoses wrays, and I think that the Hoofy F;s would be great, but I'm having the same problem and need help, I have made a Star Quilt top, and am working on the back, but trying to figure out how to quilt this, I dont want to do regular, I want it to look different but great, do I make an echo of the star, or what....any idea would be helpful. I just love your ideas......thanks Donna


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